Death is an enemy.
Before we can grasp the joys of heaven and the promise of eternal life, we have to see death for the enemy that it is. We were not created to die. As I wrote in my last post, death, destruction, pain, and toil are aberrations from the good, perfect, life-filled world that God created - aberrations caused by sin.
In our heart of hearts we know this to be true. We feel the tearing away when we lose a loved one. We mourn when we someone "too young to die" loses a life. Even our biological "fight or flight" mechanism hard-wires us to run from death and toward life.
Yes, Jesus has defeated death - but let's not forget that death is not "normal". Phrases like "circle of life" and "death as a part of life" may comfort, but apart from the hope of the resurrection in Christ, they are deceptive and meaningless. We pass from life to life only by holding Jesus' hand.
What breaks my heart the most about the decision of a young woman with cancer to publically advocate for the right of people to "die with dignity" - and then yesterday, to move forward with that decision and choose death - is that the story of this young, beautiful face for the "right-to-die" proponents just edged the culture of death in this country further off the cliff. I don't pretend to know how bad her symptoms were or how much suffering she was enduring. I leave to others who are choosing to walk through pain until a natural end of life to discuss the issue of suffering.
What I know is that "death with dignity" is not defined as "choosing when and where I die". That's not a choice we get to make. We were created for life, and until the day God, who breathes life into our bodies, determines that we've breathed our last, we should walk in the direction of life. That doesn't mean we choose every treatment, but at the very least it means we don't hasten the process. "Death with dignity" means we don't fear death because we are holding Jesus' hand walking through those final days.
I've witnessed death with dignity up close. My mother-in-law went to be with the Lord 7 1/2 years ago. My husband and I were blessed to be in the room with her. After all the measures to bring healing to her body failed, it became clear that her time to go was near. My husband and I stayed in her room for the final hour and a half, talking, telling stories, and singing praise songs. Lucid until the end, she fixed her eyes on us and transitioned from worshipping in this life, to worshipping in the next. Peace filled the room - peace that was a witness to the nurse outside the door. She lived a ministry to her very last moment on earth.
Don't be fooled by the deceptively beautiful language surrounding assisted suicide. Death is still an enemy, no matter how we dress it up. Assisted suicide is a dangerous proposition as some European countries are learning. Death with dignity isn't about choices. It's about relationship.