The Quality of Life

The March for Life will take place in Washington DC today. Tens of thousands of people, young and old, will descend on our Nation’s Capital and march in peaceful protest to raise one voice in defense of life. We will march against abortion, euthanasia, and physician assisted suicide because ALL life is precious, no matter one’s abilities or disabilities. No matter one’s political beliefs.

As Catholics, we believe the scientific truth that life begins at conception and ends with a natural death. The holocaust of abortion has been a legal scourge on our land for more than four decades. Now we’re facing a battle on a second front with eight states and the District of Columbia legally approving a person’s right to die with a physician’s help.

In today’s pro-choice conversation I’m told the reason so many woman abort their unborn children, or so many adults take their own life, is because the “quality of life” of the sick and potentially sick/disabled would be diminished.

My question has always been: What does “quality of life” mean?

Whenever people ask me about this, my answer is always “Look to Redemptive Suffering.” Those are nice words the Church uses to help us understand why bad things happen to good people. And those words helped me at the darkest moments of my own life. But what do they really mean? For me, the answer is found within the extraordinary life of our daughter, Courtney.

When Courtney was five weeks old, she was diagnosed with a seizure disorder. For the remainder of her life she had multiple grand-mal seizures daily. She was hospitalized more than 50 times in her 22 years of life and often we weren’t sure if she’d make it home. Although she was a joy-filled girl who loved to laugh, she never once said “I love you,” took a single step, or threw her arms around me to give me hug. Many people told me that because she couldn’t see, couldn’t feed herself, or even roll over in bed, she had no quality of life. Some even suggested that if I’d known how physically hard her life would be that I would’ve considered an abortion. Meaning, despite her loud guffaws, her brilliant smile, and reddish-blonde curls, her life had no meaning.

No meaning?

Tell that to her father who danced with her in his arms and sang “You are My Sunshine” for hours at a time as she smiled and giggled. Tell that to her brother who did the best Grinch impersonation every time he read her “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Tell that to the people at her funeral mass, a gathering of several hundred attendees and eight priests on the altar. Tell that to the healthcare professionals who witnessed her life and admitted she had a profound effect on how they treated other patients. Tell that to the strangers who took the time to speak to her and learned that the disabled, with a smile or by leaning in, can be a witness to other people’s pain.

My daughter knew nothing but the love and devotion of her family.

She took it all in and gave back more love than we could ever put into words. She taught us to love without condition and to never give up. I would not be who I am today without the lessons learned from my child who never spoke a word. What a privilege to be her mother.

God does not make mistakes.

The Gospel of John 9:3 says—“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

There is nothing Courtney could do to earn our love. She was love. She taught us, as Victor Hugo wrote in Les Miserables that “to love another person is to see the face of God.”

If we eliminate those people in this world who need witnessing, then we lose our own path to redemption.  If we cannot love and care for the most vulnerable among us, then how can we call ourselves Christians and Catholics?  That is the worth of people like Courtney—to witness that all of God’s children have worth and dignity and deserve our love, because I know my daughter was a powerful witness and prayer warrior, and continues to be in Heaven.

[Tweet “If we cannot love the most vulnerable among us, how can we call ourselves Christians?”]

Mary Lenaburg. Learn more about her here.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    January 28, 2017 at 4:26 am

    Beautifully said.

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